Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen says his country has reached an agreement in principle with EU and IMF donors to provide less than euro100 billion ($140 billion) to support cash-strapped Dublin banks.

Experts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund arrived in Dublin three days ago to pore over the books of the government, treasury and banks to assess how big an aid package Ireland would need to save banks from default.

On Sunday, Ireland formally requested that help. Cowen says leaders of the 15 other eurozone nations as well as the Washington-based IMF plan to fund a credit line for Ireland's state-supported banks.

EU finance ministers say the EU and the European Central Bank agreed assistance "is warranted to safeguard financial stability in the EU and euro area."